How it’s made – or how I make it

This page is here to illustrate some working stages of projects I have made or techniques I use. It is not intended to be a tutorial but really meant to show how I make things based on or adapted from methods I have learned.

If you have a question or comment please let me know here - I will do my best to reply and supply any information that may help.

 The first place I start with any project is a Plan - this is a step I still have to fully master as I often just make things up as I go along just to see how they will turn out. This is great to experiment or try out new techniques but I would not recommend it if you have to knuckle down and get a project made - so, PLAN!

Even if the project is something I have made before it is always worth sketching out all the components on paper along with their dimensions, this helps visualise the stages of the project and organise an efficient workflow. As some items may need to be soaked and need time to dry or other parts may need to be glued, organising your workflow can keep the frustration of waiting time down to a minimum. I save a lot of these sketches as they come in handy for reference.

If you make similar types of item all of the time you will probably be working off of patterns and templates  - and you won’t be reading this anyway.

All of my bags are bespoke so sizes and specifications change from project to project but my process follows a similar path each time:

  • Project design
  • Materials selection
  • Rough plan sketch of components
  • Marking out
  • Cutting, shaping and stitch marking
  • Assembly
  • Finishing

There is no one stage more important than any other but accurate marking and cutting will make for easier assembly and finishing.

I try to personally go and select each piece of leather from my suppliers which also gives me the chance to ask questions -  they generally know more about the material than I could ever hope to.

Practice does not make you perfect but it will take you to a level of skill you weren’t at before. If you get a chance to learn from somebody in person you will get more from watching an experienced craftsperson in the way they use and hold tools than you ever will from just reading step-by-step tutorials. That being said,  The Leatherworking Handbook (ISBN 10: 1844034747) by Valerie Michael is one book I would recommend.

On my links page you will find details of leathercraft training establishments I have personally attended and can whole-heartedly recommend.

PROJECTS

The following sections will be updated with other projects so please check back from time-to-time

Final Version Backpack

The following images show some of the stages that went in to the making of a backpack.

This bag is the follow-on from the prototype featured in an earlier post. The main differences between the two are that the body of the bag is made from one piece of leather, the back harness fitting is no longer part of the flap and the base ‘scuff straps’ feature brass domed feet. All the major parts that will come under stress have been stitched and copper riveted in a ‘belt and braces’ approach.

Please click on an image to see the full size version.

Step one - preparation - images 1-2
• The hide is scored with a straight edge and hand cut to ensure all further cuts have a square edge

All the individual components have been cut and marked so work can begin - images 3-9
• The D clip ring is fixed to the main harness - please note the tacks hammered in to hold the piece together prior to hand stitching.
• All of the hardware is solid cast brass.
• Along with being hand stitched, the main components have an additional saddler’s copper rivet.
• The un-fixed rivets help locate the components prior to stitching.
• Harness straps complete with fittings.

Work begins on the bag body - images 10-14
• The main components are riveted to the body - these rivets add extra strength to the parts of the bag that come under stress.
• All the components are hand stitched to the bag - waxed linen thread is used.
• Image 14 shows the buckle tongue and highlights the crease line on the edges of the tongue and flap of the bag.

Final preparation and assembly - images 15-17
• The only mechanical part of the entire process of this bag is the skived edges to the side panels. The skive serves to thin the thickness of the leather making it more pliable so that it can be shaped to the bag body. Also shown in image 16 are the turned and stitched top edges of the side panels. The skiving machine has a spinning drum shaped blade which the leather is fed across thus shaving or ‘skiving’ the thickness down.
• Image 17 shows all of the bag components ready to be assembled.
• The side panels are hand stitched to the body. In order to make sure both side panels start and finish at the same point the first panel is stitched starting at the front top of the bag and the stitching direction is towards yourself - the second panel is started in the same way but the stitching direction is away from yourself. In both edges there are three sections of stitching.

The assembled and finished bag - images 18-19
The edges have been burnished and polished. I used Gum Tragacanth which is daubed onto the edge then burnished using canvas rags, then the edges can be applied with Resolene which produces an attractive and hardwearing acrylic finish. During assembly it is necessary to finish edges of the components that will be hard to reach properly when the bag is fully assembled.

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Prototype Backpack

The following images show some of the stages that went in to the making of a prototype backpack.

Please click on an image to see the full size version.

Harness test rig - images 1-3
• Test harness rig components - roughly cut out.
• Test harness riveted only.
• Rig test set-up.

Once the harness rig had been worked out all of the bag components are marked out and cut - images 4-9
• All components.
• Harness components stitch marked and edged.
• Harness straps tacked prior to stitching.
• Harness straps in production.
• Harness straps complete with fittings.
• Assembled harness straps.

Work begins on the bag body - images 10-15
• The back of the bag is fitted with the harness ring and prepared for riveting.
• The handle is stitched and riveted to the bag.
• The base of the bag has reinforcing straps to add protection to the base of the bag. These straps are grooved to protect the stitches.
• The rest of the components are stitched to the bag and the two sections are stitched together.
• The harness is test fitted.
• The final stage before finishing is to stitch on the two side panels.

The assembled and finished bag - images 16-18
The edges have been burnished and polished.

Please bear in mind that this is just a rough prototype

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